Why Gentoo is a Great Server Distribution (a Rebuttal)

Some history: I’ve been using Linux since 1998, when a friend of mine showed me RedHat 5.0. I was instantly hooked, and over the years I’ve spent a lot of time using various flavors of Linux and other Open Source tools. For the past 6 years or so, it’s been my job to administer Linux systems. I’ve used various distributions for this task: RedHat, Fedora, Debian, and Gentoo.

When I read Why Gentoo Shouldn’t be on Your Server, I felt Gentoo was getting a bad rap. I’m currently using Gentoo on a number of production servers for a fairly heavily-used website. Gentoo has simplified my administration tasks greatly, and allowed me the flexibility I need to build the best possible set of systems to handle the job at hand.

Build Times
My current setup has 10 identical machines running Gentoo. One of them I’ve designated as my ‘build server.’ It handles the actual building of new packages, mitigating to a great deal the time spent updating software. My other 2 Gentoo-based machines have rather different configurations (one is even a sparc), so they have to build their own sets. All of these machines have been running Gentoo for over a year.

Building
For any build process, I’ve found screen to be indispensable. I’ll start up (or reconnect) a screen session, then start the emerge process. Usually I’ll add ‘nice -n19′ to the beginning of the command to minimize the impact of the build process. Every time I update, I ‘emerge -uDav world’. This allows me to review upcoming changes. The only reason I do this is to see if any php webapp updates are coming in - I need to handle the upgrades for those by hand still.

Updating Configuration Files
Once the build is done, etc-update lets me view the list of updates. I never bother reading through changes to init scripts (/etc/init.d/*), as I trust the distribution enough to handle those. In fact, I trust the distribution to do the right thing 90% of the time, and often I end up just entering ‘-5′ to let the update system auto-merge all the latest changes. This is what other distributions do most of the time behind your back, anyway.

It’s only for those few configuration files that I have changed where I need to take a look and handle things manually. For those, I’ll look at the diff first (it’s what comes up when you select the update). Most of the time here, I’ll see the update is trivial and either let it apply (’1′) or ignore it (’2′). Sometimes I’ll need to edit the two together - choosing bits and pieces from each to ensure the proper result is achieved. Here, etc-update uses a very intuitive merging tool (’3′). For each change, you can choose which version to use. The old file is on the left, the update is on the right. To use the left hand’s version, you just enter ‘l’. For the right’s version, ‘r’. Only about 1% of the time do I need to do something else, and then I’ll enter ‘ed’ to edit both versions together. All in all, this makes handling configuration updates very simple and ensures the distribution doesn’t do anything it shouldn’t behind your back.

Profile Updates
One of the previous article’s main gripes was about profile updates. Let’s reiterate: Gentoo is a source based distribution. In order to apply security updates, you need to have up-to-date dependencies. In order to have up-to-date dependencies, you need to have a capable base system. These profile updates ensure just that—that you have an updated base system. I’ve found profile updates to be painless. All I do is update the /etc/make.profile link, emerge -e system, then emerge -e world. Again, thanks to the use of nice and screen, I don’t even notice the compile time spent here. My non-build servers spend no time at all. I never have had to rebuild one of my machines from scratch. If I ever do, I’ll wonder what I did to break Gentoo’s well-designed build system.

Closing
In short, Gentoo is one of the most well thought out distributions I’ve ever used. The irony is that I don’t use it on my desktop! I use Ubuntu, mostly because I don’t need the flexibility Gentoo provides and I don’t want to use noticeable processor time building new packages.

Gentoo, through portage, provides a robust, friendly, and dependable build system. It is also important not to forget one of Gentoo’s driving philosophies: If you don’t need the package on your system, don’t install it. Use those USE flags to reduce the number of unneeded dependences! If you only build what you need, you will spend less time building. When you run ‘emerge -uD world’, you know that the updates you’re getting are updates you need. Unlike under most distributions, My servers run with a minimalist list of installed packages. This saves me headaches from security issues, and also decreases the disk footprint of the OS, allowing me to use that capacity for business needs instead.

I’ve occasionally questioned my use of Gentoo on my servers, but each time I come back to Portage. No other distribution lets me control with such a fine grain what goes on my system. No other distribution offers the wealth of packages Gentoo does. Other distributions might be easier to administer, day to day, but they do this by hiding from you things that I actually use. If it’s your job to administer servers, why not take the time to learn about what’s happening? You’ll end up being a lot less paranoid, and a much more capable admin. You’ll even end up saving yourself a lot of time.

34 Responses to “Why Gentoo is a Great Server Distribution (a Rebuttal)”


  1. 1 Alexander Ljungberg

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks for your ping. I agree with your update process, and it is indeed what I settled for myself. I would review the changes listed by etc-update and then merge those few where I had made manual changes myself. Auto merging files which hadn’t been changed never caused me any trouble.

    Several people over at Playing With Wire have described their success with Gentoo Linux - it just wasn’t the right choice for the job I do, I believe.

  2. 2 Joe Monti

    Very nicely stated. The big difference between the articles is experience with Gentoo. The real power of Gentoo is often overshadowed by the fact that it is a source distribution, and because that is so different from all other mainstream distributions people lock onto that and think that is all it is. Gentoo’s power is not that it is a source distribution, it is all the benefits of being able to compile everything from source — namely the USE system.

  3. 3 ph

    You don’t have to emerge -e system nor emerge -e world after profile change.

  4. 4 Marek Pułczyński

    We are using gentoo on 50 machines, including commodity hardware (for web servers) and power machines (databases), routers and fierwalls.

    Some are even running ~amd64 and gcc4.1, still without problems.

    imho Gentoo is bad system only for lazy/stupid admins.
    Those with experience dating from slackware loves it. Newcomers doesn not understand.

    Naturally there is debian/gentoo war in our company, but, as I am chief of administrators, I just do care :)

  5. 5 Mike Valstar

    works great for gentoo-wiki.com’s servers, 22,000 visitors a day and counting

  6. 6 josh

    Just to reply to a couple comments I’m seeing on digg:

    “Gentoo is only good if you update every week”
    I update every month or two. I’ve never experienced any crushing dependency errors. Once in a while I’ll get a blocking package, but I’d have gotten those even if I’d updated every day. Blocks are easy to overcome - just remove the blocking package and continue.
    Certainly if you can’t make enough time to get to each machine on your network every month or two, you need to reconsider either your staff size, your number of machines to achieve the job, or your quality as an administrator.

    “You don’t need to emerge -e world to perform a profile update”
    Right, sorry.. I was going on memory here and I think my time spent on my sparc machine was coming to the fore. Gentoo provides simple, concise documentation on how to perform profile updates, and it turns out that’s it’s actually very easy.

    “Nobody tells you what car to drive.” or Use What You’re Good With
    Sure, I can see the merit to this argument. I do think, however, Gentoo is worth learning! You’ll gain a lot from learning how to use Portage, and you’ll probably also learn quite a bit about Linux in general. I know I did! :)

  7. 7 Fernando Sanabria

    Buying already built cars is for lazy/stupid drivers. Real men build their own cars.

  8. 8 anonymous coward

    do you have the development packages on each of your production systems? a potential attacker would thank you for doing so.

  9. 9 Marek Pułczyński

    If you are schoolbus-driver, building your own does not make sense. If you are riding F1 its NECESSARY (and so it is for large systems).

    Perheaps centos users will disagree.

  10. 10 Anonymous

    ma va a cagher te e ghentu

  11. 11 m00dawg

    I work for a server hosting company and can tell you that, though I run Gentoo on my own servers, it does not compare to Debian, Ubuntu, or yes, even Red-Hat in terms of just getting stuff done.

    The main problem with Gentoo is lack of any sort of focused, strict, development process while having the same feature-set. To give an example, I had to unmask MySQL 5, which Gentoo developers broke promptly with that horrible slotted configuration idea. And that is just one example.

    I will admit the source based nature of Gentoo keeps me on it. But I think even compared to FreeBSD, Gentoo is definitely not a server that is for everybody. And I’m afraid that you will not be able to convince those who don’t use Gentoo in a server with rhetoric. In order for Gentoo to gain ground, it will need to have to start practicing server-live development processes. You can just upgrade a package all willy-nilly like and then expect a server administrator to have to reconfigure it every-time a small configuration changes.

    I think Ubuntu is a great distro that Gentoo can hope to learn from. It has a standard upgrade cycle, is fairly easy to upgrade, and they provide patching in between upgrades that do not require significant changes or work for an admin.

    I mean I love the Gentoo, but I’m gonna have to disagree that Gentoo is definitely not for everyone, particularly in a server world.

  12. 12 Lee (aka falconX)

    I’ve been using gentoo on servers for years, I agree with all this, its excellent for servers, it adapts to exactly what I need, and allows me to make my servers completely customized to my needs.

    I’ve only had to re-install my gentoo server once, but that was because it was so out of date, it made more sense to re-install and start over.

    I figured I’d suggest something in case you didn’t know about it, not too many do, or at least used to not know…
    If you want to change your portage nice level on every emerge, set PORTAGE_NICENESS in /etc/make.conf to whatever you want the nice level to be. And then every portage proc will run at that niceness level.

  13. 13 chivo

    For those that think updating every month or two is really holding back, real production servers are not updated for years. Patched for major bugs or security vulns, sure, but not updated.

    Also, it amazes me that those with 10 servers think it’s a big deal. You realize that real admins deal with hundreds of servers, running multiple applications, not just your web server with php and maybe mysql.

    When you start dealing with enterprise environments, and real money, you will begin to really understand why Gentoo is not built for anything stable. You begin to see the wisdom in Debian’s stable, never changing branch, or why people still run Solaris 8.

    Please, have fun with your toys, but don’t pretend they are anything more than that.

  14. 14 Matt

    I like ubuntu, and i’ve both recommended it and used it. However, your article proves the point that you have to know what you’re doing in order to run it.

    It’s just not a fit for everyone because there are so many little things you have to do, that people aren’t used to doing.

    Re: the comments about not using it where you have lots of servers and real money — that’s where I think it probably is a BETTER fit, because you’ve got the $$ to have people spend their time working on the systems.

    In some places I’ve worked, “sysadmin” was an afterthought — sure it’s not good, but when you’re starting up (or falling down), there’s not always the extra time to devote to good practices, and that’s when you get hosed having a more complicated / more time consuming os.

    not that it’s bad, it’s just not a fit everywhere.

  15. 15 rick

    Chivo is right, you do not mention all the enterprise software compatibility with gentoo. Servers are for far greater things than just websites. You should say gentoo may be good for people for only run open source apps or web servers or something like that, but clearly not for any one in any real enterprise environment.

  16. 16 Wendall

    I also run Gentoo on production servers and agree with the rebuttal. I would say that based on many of the comments here and on digg.com (where I say this posted), many people who are commenting on enterprise use have absolutely no clue about what that even means.

    The beauty of Gentoo is that you can create and entirely custom environment for any particular task. In the enterprise world servers tend to be very specialized. This is the point at which distributions like RH, Debian, etc. fall flat. Compiling everything into packages that *most people need is just not adequate. I never had a RH LAMP setup that I didn’t need to build PHP and/or Apache from sources because it didn’t have critical feature X compiled in that our application required. This causes huge security and dependency issues because the package is no longer managed by the package manager, thus bypassing all security and dependency benefits of the package manager. Gentoo changes this entirely because I always compile from sources with the help of Portage, and every application is compiled with exactly what is required for the server/servers in question. When security advisories posted, it is quite clear what the resolution is, and Portage properly handles the update.

  17. 17 chort

    Josh, you just do not seem to get the concept of what real companies use servers for. They are totatally stable platforms to install applications on that rarely get updated, aside from security patches. A platform that is considered a “good server” is one that rarely needs to be coddled. If you were running hundreds of servers perhaps you would understand this philosophy.

    Why do most people dislike Linux Zealots? Because the Zealot keeps telling them to do things that don’t make sense, then invent a whole bunch of meaningless reasons for why it does make sense. This is another one of those examples. Get some practical experience in Real Life running a large server deployment, then come back and tell us how well-suited Gentoo would be for it.

    Here’s what large companies are looking for in a server:
    1. Long release cycles to reduce the frequency that a company has to do QA in order to upgrade.

    2. Ultra-stable platform that can run the company’s software with a minimum of testing. This includes that platform being certified to run all the major commercial software that the company has purchased.

    3. Something that “runs itself” and requires little to no on-going maintenance from IT staff.

    4. Comprehensive and well-implemented security patch process to ease applying patches to a large number of machines (and not too frequently–there’s a reason why Microsoft adopted the “Patch Tuesday” routine).

    5. Paid technical support from the vendor itself (for accountability and contractual obligations).

    So far as I can tell, Gentoo doesn’t meet any of those requirements.


    chort

  18. 18 Motorcycle Guy

    This argument makes alot of sense, I actually in an environment like you described it seems to fit very well. I agree with your decision about not running it on your desktop, as I like for my desktop to \

  19. 19 josh

    I’ve been seeing the argument a lot lately that Gentoo isn’t fit for the enterprise. Here’s my position on that:

    I’ve worked for large companies and for small. Gentoo is a mindset change. Personally I prefer working for small companies because I don’t have to go through all the red tape in order to update ssh to avoid a critical security hole, etc. I understand there are Business processes that make using Gentoo more difficult. This isn’t the distribution’s fault though.
    Personally I think Sun especially has allowed business to build up this ponderous attitude towards servers. My philosophy is of light and quick deployment, with rapid response to the changing world of computing possible. I’m sorry, but in your environment I feel this just isn’t possible.

  20. 20 chort

    “Rapid response”??? Just how big of an environment did you manage? Even 5 minutes per machine for 200 servers would take two solid days!!!

    Sysadmins aren’t paid to just update systems 24/7. They have to design new imlementations, test upcoming versions of software, validate configurations, evaluate new solutions from vendors, hand-code solutions to problems the company chooses to not purchase a product for, run backups, do restores when the lusers blow something away, attend staff meetings for all of the above, meet with vendors for briefings, etc…

    Every minute a sysadmin doesn’t need to spend updating a system is increased productivity for the business and reduced labor cost.

    Your assertion that people are some how duped into this “ponderous attitude”, and further that it’s mainly because of one vendor, borders on the ludicrous. Let me list how many vendors (mostly at the request of their customers) live by this approach:

    IBM
    Oracle
    Red Hat
    Sun
    Microsoft
    Novell
    SAP
    McAfee
    Symantec
    Cisco
    Juniper
    Nortel
    i.e. all of them.

    Vendors would love to deliver software to their customers faster, but the truth is that customers don’t want them to.

    For reasons of stability, companies have to spend long cycles testing new software releases to certify them as “ready for production”. There is a certain fixed length to this process, no matter how small the update is, so the more releases there are, the higher percentage of their day an IT person is going to spend simply testing & certifying. Testing large releases don’t take that much longer than testing small releases, because there is a baseline amount of testing that always needs to be done.

    I can tell you from experience working at enterprise software & appliance companies that it’s not at all unusual to have customers lag 3 years behind our release cycle, and I’ve worked mostly at security companies who’s products are the most critical to keep up to date (security products tend to rapidly lose effectiveness after a year as new threats are developed)! This is even with our software release cycles being as long as 18 months in some cases.

    From your comments, I simply have to conclude that you have no practical experience managing large systems for Fortune 500-type companes and are therefor not really qualified to tell anyone in the industry what contitutes a “good server”.

    In particular your belief that “rapid response” should apply (apparently) to the entire system is just fanciful. Even security patches need to be tested, because in most cases the damage caused by a botched/unstable patch is worse than taking the risk of being exploited. Take a course is risk management and learn to qualify/quantify risks before you make such silly comments.


    chort

    PS your CAPTCHA script is terrible. It takes a human being several attempts to get one that’s even readable. Your approach to spam seems to be as impractical as your approach to server maintenance.

  21. 21 josh

    I don’t spend 5 minutes per machine. I spend 5 minutes per build. This is why I use build servers - to consolidate the changes. On average I spend about an hour a month working on ‘Gentoo specific’ things.

    Vendors live by this approach because it’s what big business expects and requires. If businesses were to change their approach, vendors would as well. Businesses take a long time to test and roll out product updates because they’re paranoid.

    Frankly I don’t blame them - with the kinds of systems they’ve had to use in the past (i.e. Windows mostly), changing small things does have big consequences. With a well-configured Gentoo system, emerge will handle all your updates. If you’re running a custom application that depends on a specific version of a package, then you mask out all greater versions of that package until you upgrade your application. Gentoo will wisely not upgrade packages that depend on that library as well. As soon as you’re ready, Gentoo is too.

    You’re certainly welcome to choose to accept what I say or not. I don’t have any vested interest in what you choose. I’m merely trying to back up Gentoo and say that it’s as good a choice as any other, and in my opinion, better.

  22. 22 chort

    You still don’t get it, so I will spell it for you:
    T . I . M . E . and A . C . C . O . U . N . T . A . B . I . L . I . T . Y .

    Any change has to be tested. Companies do not trust Cisco, Sun, and Oracle blindly, they’re sure as hell not going to trust an unaccountable open source project with no technical support, no contractual obligations, and no liability just because “emerge will handle all your updates”. Guess what? SUS will “handle all your updates”, so will RHN. Do any companies just blindly roll out those patches?

    Given that everything must be tested, the rest of it all follows…

    1. Everything must be tested (for accountability)
    2. Testing takes time
    3. Little patches take nearly the same amount of testing as big patches
    4. Time is money
    —–
    Conclusion: In order to be accountable, a few big patches on long intervals are much cheaper than lots of little patchs on short intervals.

    So back to your statement that “Gentoo is a mindset change”. When do you expect companies will change their mindset and allow for untested patching of production systems? In fact, would you do business with say, a bank who rolled out software without testing it? Do you have that much faith in every software developer that they will never have a bug?

    By admitting that Gentoo is a different mindset you effectively stated this yourself:
    Gentoo will never be ready for the Enterprise because Gentoo is fundamentally opposed to the business requirements of every company and the requirements, aren’t going to change (will Gentoo?)

    In this case, why are you still trying to make the point that Gentoo is a legitimate server platform? The philosophy of Gentoo (as you stated yourself) is diametrically opposed to sound and responsible business practices. In fact, with legislation like Sarbanes Oxley it may very well be illegal in the US to deploy and use Gentoo as you have described.

    You cannot expect people to take you seriously when you fundamentally don’t understand the problems that you’re telling people how to solve. And to think you wonder why Gentoo (and it’s users) get a bad rap… (hint: look in the mirror).


    chort

  23. 23 pro-gentooer

    Chort, you say: Sysadmins aren’t paid to just update systems 24/7. They have to design new imlementations, test upcoming versions of software, validate configurations, evaluate new solutions from vendors, hand-code solutions to problems the company chooses to not purchase a product for, blah blah blabbity blah

    It’s obvious though that you’ve never “designed” anything more than what the mass-market vendors provide you. You would be hopelessly lost if you needed to design a server farm that provided specific LAMP features that don’t exist in RedHat Network’s stream of apps and updates. You probably don’t even understand that dependencies at a binary level are BAD, because you don’t know that there is another way. However, I’ll bet you know quite well from your mistakes to not stray from the RedHat Network RPM line-up.

    Oh, and about that security background of yours. I bet it really stresses you to no end that Gentoo and distros like Trustix issue security patches 3-4 weeks before your beloved RHN RPMs hit the update stream.

  24. 24 chort

    gentooer-zealot:

    “Dependencies are bad”, yes that’s a great line of FUD Gentoo diciples love to throw out, and it means nothing. Any software from a vendor is going to have a platform support matrix, which they certify on. Want to run the software? Use that platform. This is what customers want, because they always know what to expect. This is what vendors want, because it’s much easier to support.

    Where’s Gentoo’s support matrix? Oh right, they don’t have one and no enterprise ISVs certify their software for Gentoo. Ouch.

    Yes, if you go roll your own stuff and update it every day, you have to worry about dependencies. Fortunately real commercial software doesn’t have this problem because no real company is constantly updating their server platforms. Try again.

    Security patches early? Hey, that’s great, I wonder why every vendor doesn’t do that? Ohh riiiiiight, because they actually care about stability and they test them first to make sure they don’t interrupt operations (see above where I pointed out bad patches are worse than the risk of exploits). Strike two.

    Any other non-sensical arguments you care to throw out?


    chort

  25. 25 djs

    Lets bring the tone down a bit, people.

    Gentoo has distinct advantages over RedHat, Debian, etc. in certain environments. For example, in an environment where you run open source application services such as LAMP, open source IMAP, etc. In those environments the packages provided by the binary distributions are actually detrimental to stability and manageability because they don’t provide exactly what you need and you must break the native package management system by building your own binaries from source.

    Now, obviously, if you’re running Oracle or DB2 some other proprietary vendor supported/qualified product on Linux, then you want RedHat or SUSE because you’re not supporting and qualifying the ‘app’–they are.

    The best of all would be if you could have RedHat/CentOS or SUSE with a system like portage for certain packages. So you could have RedHat but still run Cyrus or LAMP on it without major hassles.

    /djs

  26. 26 Fan Of Gentoo But

    Chort may have a blunt way to make his point but I’ll have to side along with him.

    We are a firm of systems integration and software development.
    We run about 450 servers for customers having up to 1Million clients.

    Gentoo is a no go.
    Reason ? It’s Troublesome. Securitly patches and dependencies have a way to disrupt the ability to compile after a while, requiring way too much time and making the RTO (return to online) longer in case of problems.

    We need a stable OS, which when it has to be updated won’t break ANY dependency… ever. The software on it will then have to be certified and supported too. We can’t afford interdependency changes.
    Do you have ani idea of a 99.985 uptime means ? We provide that. (%age is monthly on a thwo months period)

    The only unixes that have passed the requirements tests and the POCs (Proof of Concept - validation of each piece of software we integrate) are AIX and Solaris.

    Red Hat is in the certification process but only for DB and Web servers. (and in these case we use clusters or active standby redundancy)

    Gentoo is cool, nerdy, and on my home computers. Not on the ones at work. Simple as it is.

  27. 27 Gun Totin Mime

    I agree with Chort, until you’ve managed an enterprise-level system, you will not understand the need for stability. In most businesses, IT is overhead…a necessary evil. Production systems have got to remain stable and predictable. Changes have to be tracked very closely so that if something goes wrong, there is a way to backtrack. Please, get enterprise-level experience before posting stuff like this.

  28. 28 josh

    Not to fan the flames here too much, but if you’ve used Gentoo much, you would also know that you can test before deployment. All you need is a build server setup like I have.

    When new changes come out, I build them on my build server. I can then selectively roll out changes to one server at a time, allowing me to do a fully audited change and test program.

    Once that update has been certified, I can then roll out the changes to the rest of the servers in that environment.

    By the way, my servers have never gone down because of Gentoo. I have 100% uptime. yes, not 99.999, 100. Literally the only time the servers have gone down is when our hosting provider had major power problems.

    My personal server (that runs this website actually), has run RedHat and Fedora in the past. I’ve achieved perfect stability running Gentoo. I can’t say the same for those others.

  29. 29 jownz

    I love your rebuttal, josh!

    Gentoo is also my favorite Linux distribution by far! I’m not sure if this was mentioned in a past comment, but dispatch-conf is a superior tool over etc-update.

    I think you might enjoy this: Pay close attention to step 10 :)

    All the best,

    jownz

  30. 30 jownz

    …damnit…

    Link system not as good as advertised.

    Post..take 2.

    I love your rebuttal, josh!

    Gentoo is also my favorite Linux distribution by far! I’m not sure if this was mentioned in a past comment, but dispatch-conf is a superior tool over etc-update.

    I think you might enjoy this: How to be l33t

    Pay close attention to step 10 :)

    All the best,

    jownz

  31. 31 Grabber

    I think there is no best system. Gentoo is not better than Debian, Debian is not better than Gentoo. For define the best system we need spent time planning the implementation. What my OS will do? What it will run? Why i can or can\’t use it? I think we need think at this way to have a good system.

  32. 32 Luke has no name

    I know this goes off topic, but while we\\\’re naming off Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Debian while comparing to gentoo for servers, can we bring up FreeBSD? I\\\’m a general newbie (but I\\\’m studying) when it comes to server administration, and for several reasons, I have chosen to focus on BSD. Could I have some feedback or comparison?

  33. 33 Sum maker

    Some conclusions.

    It has been demonstrated that Gentoo can be run perfectly on lots of servers, since 10 is enough to call it a lot. Does it make news? I guess not.

    The next number to consider is 1000, which is about automating tasks like propagating binary packages from a build/testing server to all production ones. People like chort do not speak about that, so they have not reached that level yet.

    It has been also perfectly demonstrated that 1) some people cannot run Gentoo as a server distribution, and 2) some people do not need to. Can anyone expect different?

    Now, how come that this thread turned to be a bit heated? It often happens when a person who cannot do something gets high tempered when he or she feels that the lacking ability potentially gives some advantage to others. Ask your doctor about details.

    Let us go through the chort’s list:

    1. Long release cycles to reduce the frequency that a company has to do QA in order to upgrade.

    Pipe dream. Vulnerabilities and bugs get known when discovered and no release cycle can be enforced on them.

    2. Ultra-stable platform that can run the company’s software with a minimum of testing. This includes that platform being certified to run all the major commercial software that the company has purchased.

    Pipe dream. The platform is as good as made by the application developers and no distro can influence them much.

    3. Something that “runs itself” and requires little to no on-going maintenance from IT staff.

    Dangerous pipe dream. Nothing can “run itself” so far. If something gets close, just consider what happens if the beast misbehaves.

    4. Comprehensive and well-implemented security patch process to ease applying patches to a large number of machines (and not too frequently–there’s a reason why Microsoft adopted the “Patch Tuesday” routine).

    Pipe dream, except the process. Conflicts with item 1. The spam I get every day from zombies demonstrates that Microsoft is no good with security regardless of the “Patch Tuesday”.

    The process to apply patches is a valid requirement, and if there is any one working then it should be ported to Gentoo.

    5. Paid technical support from the vendor itself (for accountability and contractual obligations).

    Bingo! That is what a “real company” employee always wants: a way to pass responsibility to someone else.

    I have to conclude that chort is under more stress from not that much computer competent business people than Josh and part of the stress has beens revealed in this thread.

    It has been mentioned that in many companies IT is a liability and I cannot agree more. If it is the case, items 1 through 5 above are to be expected. My 2c are: is IT a liability at Google?

    Back to the topic. One distro differs from another in exactly 4 areas: package management, the base layout, software selection, and patches.

    I cannot imagine how it is possible to upgrade anything mission critical without etc-update or better. I do not know about equivalents in other distros. My experience with Windows suggests that on any non-trivial update something is either broken or new useful features I want are turned off. It looks like portage is better for servers than other package managers.

    Gentoo has simple and easy to maintain base layout. The changes it introduces to the treatment of run levels and environment variables may be beneficial for servers, but just a little bit.

    Servers do not need most of the software in the portage tree. Oracle and Beowulf are not there. Gentoo is not a server distribution.

    Gentoo never enforces any silly patches (for vendor lock-in, Windows look and feel, etc.) and has its use flags facilitates removing unnecessary and potentially problematic code. This is good for servers.

    Final thoughts. Josh has not demonstrated when and how Gentoo is much better as a server distribution than any other. I doubt that somebody will do that ever soon, since it is hard to acheive without revealing the competitive advantage of some company.

  34. 34 Baron

    Good afternoon. The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.
    I am from Iraq and now study English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “However, as they are acting at an girlfriend, single baby cavaldi spends them to the combative general delatombe.”

    Waiting for a reply :D, Baron.

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